September 18, 2021

Nikhil Poojary: Sunil Chhetri told me to stop eating biscuits!

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Poojary expressed his admiration for Sunil Chhetri in a live chat on Instagram…

In an Instagram conversation on Friday, India international Nikhil Poojary revealed his first interaction with national team skipper Sunil Chhetri during the 2019 AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Asian Cup qualifiers.

During a fun-filled session, Poojary said that his conversation with Indian football legend Chhetri was regarding biscuits. 

“We were playing Macau away. He (Chhetri) met me and congratulated for me for my (senior team) debut. When I just about to dip a biscuit in my tea, he asked me ‘kya kha raha hai? (what are you eating). He told me ‘yeh mat kha, baki kuch ut’ta (don’t eat this, eat something else).’ So that was my first conversation with him and I stopped eating biscuits after that,” Poojary confessed during the chat with Indian Super League.

Poojary also shared an instance when Chhetri cheated his own diet recommendations during the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup joint qualifiers.

“After the Oman game, we lost (2-1) but the confidence was high. We were one-nil up and after that everything happened (conceded two late goals) but we played really well. After that game, Ashique (Kuruniyan) got injured and we got to know that Sunil Chhetri is not well,” he continued.

“Playing against Qatar in Qatar, it was a challenge playing against such quality players. [For] the way we defended and the way everyone showed their character, when we got back to the hotel, Sunil hugged everybody. It was even the first time he ate a cheat meal by eating a cake and (offered it to) everyone else also. That was the first time I saw him (Chhetri) so happy.”

The Mangalore-born Mumbaikar started his senior club career with East Bengal in the 2016-17 I-League before making the switch to the Indian Super League (ISL) with FC Pune City.

“For me, the biggest difference between the ISL and the national team is that we have Sunil Chhetri in the dressing room. I can listen to him continuously for five hours also,” he added.

Poojary’s senior team debut was in a friendly against Mauritius in a 2-1 loss on August 19, 2017. His first international goal was against the Maldives in the 2018 SAFF (South Asian Football Federation) Championship.

When asked to choose the more significant moment among the two, he answered, “The debut against Mauritius,” and reasoned, “It was my first international game. A lot of players don’t get the opportunity to play for the national team. The goal came later but after that day (debut) I got the tag of being an international player.”